RSV: Take Precautions Against the Tripledemic Virus

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
January 19, 2023
woman comforting man who is coughing

You should always be vigilant about protecting your immune system. But between October and May, it’s imperative. 

First, it’s flu season, which can lead to pneumonia and hospitalizations. We’re also still dealing with COVID. Although experts have yet to identify a “COVID season,” cases are expected to rise during the colder months as people spend more time indoors. COVID can cause life-threatening complications. 

What is RSV?

Cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) were also increasing as we entered flu season. RSV is a lesser-known virus with a season spanning fall through spring. Like influenza and COVID, RSV can cause substantial health issues. The collision of these three viral outbreaks has been popularized in media as a “tripledemic.”

Most people are familiar with flu and COVID, so let’s discuss RSV. This is a respiratory virus that can infect anyone, but it mostly affects:

  • Children younger than 2 years old
  • Older adults
  • People with pulmonary conditions, compromised immune systems or heart disease. 

RSV is highly contagious. It enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. It’s usually spread through respiratory droplets released into the air when as an infected person coughs or sneezes. Another mode is direct contact such as kissing, shaking hands or sharing glasses and utensils with an infected person. You also catch it by touching a contaminated surface, such as counters or doorknobs and touching your eyes, mouth or nose. The virus can live on surfaces for hours.
Cold-like symptoms typically appear within a week of exposure and will last between one and two weeks. However, if the infection spreads to the lower airways, your risk for pneumonia and bronchiolitis rises and severity of symptoms can increase and may include:

  • Fever
  • Severe cough
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish skin color

“RSV was discovered back in the 1950s, so it’s been around for decades,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “However, this season we’re experiencing an uptick in the number of cases, which is concerning, especially as older adults are at risk for getting hit with flu, COVID and RSV subsequently or even concurrently.”

Why is RSV more problematic this year?

COVID restrictions such as social distancing, masking and antibacterial handwashing shielded many children from viruses such as COVID; but they also weren’t exposed to RSV, which meant their immune systems weren’t exposed. Now that children are no longer social distancing or wearing masks, they’re more susceptible to catching viruses like RSV and passing them on to adults. As a result, RSV-related hospitalizations among adults are increasing, and it is important to continuously take RSV contact precautions..

Preventing RSV

There isn’t a vaccine for RSV. But you can lower your chances of contracting it by adhering to cold and flu season precautions. Here are some tips:

  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Clean commonly used surfaces and objects like counters, tables, phones and pens frequently
  • Don’t share glasses and utensils
  • Avoid close content with others
  • Stay home when you’re sick 
  • Avoid crowds

“Of course, you also need to protect your immune system,” Kaminetsky says. “Eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep, controlling stress, limiting alcohol and avoiding tobacco are the pillars of a strong immune system. You also should work closely with your doctor to manage conditions.”

If you need a primary care doctor, consider partnering with an MDVIP-affiliated physician. An MDVIP-affiliated doctor can help you live a healthy lifestyle that can help keep your immune system strong. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

Similar Posts
Should You Get the Flu Shot? / Sean Kelley / December 28, 2017
Cold or Flu? Learn the Symptoms / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / January 12, 2018
Flu Raises Your Risk for a Heart Attack Seven Days After It Strikes / Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES / December 1, 2020

About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
Physician Locator
Enter a full address, city, state, or ZIP code. You can also browse our city directory to find physicians in your area.
Enter Doctor's Name